An illustration student emailed me recently asking for advice on getting her work published. I've been in the industry for less than a decade and am by no means an expert, but I can say with certainty that there's no magic formula for instant publishing success. The trick isn't about making good work, it's about getting that good work noticed by the right people. Challenging, but not impossible. Here are some of the things I encouraged her to do:
Maintain a web presence.
Don't be hard to find. Have a blog, website, or digital platform that shows your best work. Keep it current.
Send postcard mailers to art directors and editors.
I'm not the only art director who loves getting postcards in the mail. I keep them for reference when I'm hiring for new projects. Don't be afraid to send updated mailers every couple of months—just remember to include your website and contact info so we can find you.
Most publishers don't accept unsolicited manuscripts or project
pitches. Hiring an agent is a little like jumping to the front of the line: It doesn't guarantee success, but you'll have a better chance of getting your work in front of the right people. Good agents have strong working relationships with editors and
art directors and know the kind of projects those folks might like. Agents are like partners, find someone you connect with and who understands your work. They will be your second biggest advocate. You should be your first.
Most importantly: Be persistent and patient.
Getting published rarely—and I mean rarely!—happens overnight. Be persistent. Be patient. Be kind. Repeat.
As a card-carrying member of the Dreamers & Hopeless Romantics
Club (i.e. someone who has Pride & Prejudice memorized), I've always believed that the stars are intrinsically linked to
love and fate and all things infinite. Stargazing in NYC isn't easy. So whenever I'm way from city
glow, I find myself starring up at the night sky, mesmerized by the
countless stars, searching for certain constellations, and of course, dreaming.
"I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me dream."
—Vincent Van Gogh
“We are made of starstuff.”
“If we look at the makeup of the
word disaster, dis-aster, we see dis,
which means separation, and aster,
which means star. So dis-aster is
separation from the stars...”
Whether you believe in the Universe or destiny, a greater power
or nothing at all, there's still something wonderful about the sight of the stars.
The work of Andy Gilmore was a huge inspiration for this project. (see: Patterns of Infinity) Simple geometric forms, repeated in space, creating gorgeous patterns that extend (presumably) into infinity.
Of these concepts, the last version won the popular vote. But the Powers That Be thought it seemed too sci-fi. (And maybe too busy. And what's up with her boob? And does it look like they're gonna get hit by a car?)
Concept Refinement 1.0
Smaller couple, no pointy boob, less sci-fi sky.
Which brought us to our final cover.
The Rouge Galley
Concept Refinement 2.0
Reintroducing the couple as silhouettes and changing up the typographic approach.
In an impromptu cover meeting at BEA, (I mean, is there be a better venue?) we presented these final comps to Lauren Myracle and a semi-impartial jury, overseen by our marketing director's adorable nephew.
At first there was dissension.
But Lauren had the final say, which was: "I trust you, Maria. Whatever you think."
So with Lauren's blessing and my promise to hand-letter the type, I found myself in a college-flashback in the middle of Utrecht, trying to hunt down vellum and Sharpie markers.
Half a pad of vellum later, my chicken-scratch handwriting evolved into a pretty alright type solution.
Brief note on effects: Jacket effects are like icing on a cake. The flavors need to be well-paired to create a satisfying dessert. (If they don't, people just pick at one or the other.) Same with design. It's important to consider effects in the early stages of a cover so that effects compliment design and don't feel like an afterthought.
My original idea for Infinite Moment was to die cut holes where the stars are, so that the case design showed through the dies on the front cover, similar to the hardcover design of The Age of Miracles.
But as the design evolved, the die-cut-star idea seems less and less appropriate (Although, still in my back pocket for another project, another day.) Instead, I convinced editorial to go along with a souped-up trifecta of jacket effects: gloss spot UV, embossing, and soft-touch matte lamination—which feels like satin, y'all. It's awesome.
I feel like I began unconsciously collecting inspiration for this cover long before the pieces came together. However, having the pieces and making them fit are two different things. I love designing books because it challenges me daily. But this project stretched me in ways I haven't been stretched before. Somewhere between rouge galley and concept refinement 2.0, I hit a creative roadblock and was genuinely concerned that I wouldn't be able to make this cover work. (Like, wake up in cold sweats kind of concerned.) And I don't know if it's because the cover inspirations were the same as those for my life in general (the stars, destiny, etc.) but with the encouragement of Lauren and my peeps at Abrams, the pieces finally clicked. I read somewhere that being knocked flat on our backs is the best way to see the stars. From this vantage point, I can say that I agree.